Monday 23 April 2018

French judge charges two of Congo's ruling elite in probe

French judge charges two of Congo's ruling elite in probe
(AFP (eng) 07/13/17)
French judge charges two of Congo's ruling elite in probe

French judges probing the ruling elite in three African countries over suspected misuse of public funds have charged Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso's nephew and former sister-in-law, sources close to the case said Thursday.

Edgar Nguesso and his mother Catherine Ignanga appeared before an investigating judge on Tuesday and were charged with money laundering and misusing public funds, according to the sources.

It is the latest development in a wide-ranging probe into the ruling elite in three oil-rich African countries: Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Since 2010, French investigators have been trying to establish if the lavish properties and luxury cars owned in France by members of these families were bought with plundered public funds.

To date, five members of Nguesso's entourage have been charged.

The family of Gabon's President Ali Bongo, whose father Omar ruled for 42 years before him, is also being investigated.

And a Paris court this year put Teodorin Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang, on trial for corruption, though only his lawyers have turned up in court.

French prosecutors called for a three-year jail term and a 30-million-euro ($34-million) fine for Obiang, who is also one of his country's vice presidents. The judgment is due on October 27.

In 2014, French officials seized luxury properties and top-of-the-range cars belonging to members of Congo's Sassou Nguesso clan, following similar seizures of Obiang's assets in France 2012.

Court papers seen by AFP also show that investigators are looking at what they suspect is a front company that has received millions of euros of Congolese public funds. They suspect it is controlled by members of the country's ruling family.

But members of the families concerned are fighting back.

In December 2016, a lawyer for the Congolese president and his family filed a complaint against Transparency International, one of the anti-corruption groups that pressed France to act on this issue.

And last week, Equatorial Guinea's president said he would hold talks with the rulers of Congo and Gabon about a joint lawsuit against the organisation.

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